First of all, I'll tell you all how this trip came about. About 3 miles south west of my house, there's a farm strip. I hadn't really thought much of it, but a Yak 52 I'd seen at good ol' Shoreham was parked up there. I thought I'd go get some pics of it and anything else that was around. So I did, on possibly the worst day of the month, about two weeks ago.
Anyway, I get there, covered in mud, see the Yak sitting there but notice one of the hangar doors open. I thought I'd be nosy and take a look, I popped my head inside the doors to see a range of beautiful aircraft. A 1950's Cessna 172 taildragger, beautifully restored, a Beechcraft Baron 58, Vans RV6, and a couple of other Piston single props. The owner of the strip, the Cessna and the Baron is standing there speaking to his neighbour, who owns the Yak. I put on my sweet innocent teenager face and ask whether I can take some pictures of the Yak. They turned out to be two of the friendliest people I could've hoped to meet. They showed me around both the hangars (The second one with more piston singles) and showed me around the Baron and Yak, little did I know I'd soon be flying on both of these aircraft.
Anyway, cutting an already long story short, the owner of the strip (Brian) and organised a flight in a Tiger Moth for me for a few minutes to another local strip, which I was amazed at. Stew (The Yak owner) was taking the 52 to Kent for maintenance, and asked if I'd like to tag along, once again, I said I'd love to. But the ultimate would come a week later...
I get a phone call from Brian, saying he's taking the Baron over to Lelystad to show to a prospective new owner, and asked if I'd like to come along. Of course, I'd be insane to turn it down, so I didn't!
I wake up groggily to my phone merrily playing the Nokia tune, only to shut it up seconds later. I get up and do the usual thing people do in the morning. Go into the bathroom and look in the mirror... Eugh! Head downstairs and munch on some breakfast, go upto the computer, check the weather, as well as A.net.
Get changed, grab my trusty 400D, headset and bag with overnight clothes (there was a possibility we might have to stay overnight). Head out the door, and drive down to Slinfold (Wellcross grange) airstrip, in the early morning gloom.
I arrive to see the beautiful Beechcraft Baron 58, sitting on the patio in all it's glory.
Photo © TZ Aviation
Here's the strip from "up high"
Brian soon walks out the door and greets in the usual hand shake, tells me about the weather, and we walk over to the aircraft. Climbing into the soft cream leather seats I put my camera and bag's in the back (Unfortunately, no pictures of the outbound leg, I'm afraid)
We put the belts on, adjust seats, flick on the lights, and start up the engines. To my right one of the Continental engines splutters into life with a puff of smoke, and the left one following it in the same manner. As we sit and wait for the Pistons to warm, I take a look around the cockpit, at the GPS as Brian sets it up for our route to Mayfield (MAY) VOR, a few miles south east of LGW.
We're soon on our way taxiing up the "Runway" for power checks. Once completed, we taxi back down towards the house, do a 180 turn, and full power! I was overwhelmed by the feeling similar to that on a jet. Pushed into the back of the seat, I watch the grass run faster and faster by the window, over the brow of the hill in the centre of the runway, we get a sense of weightlessness, the rain runs up the windscreen, the nose lifts, and the shuddering of the ground stops, we're airbourne! The gear is lifted up and we make a turn to Starboard towards Southwater, still at full power and still with rain streaming down the windows. Flaps up, leveling out and power back slightly, we cruise along at 1000ft, and at 130kts, underneath LGW's class D airspace. We tune into London FIR and are soon cleared to ascend upto 2400ft. Over Haywards Heath we're outside restricted airspace, and we continue to cruise along, blinded by a thick layer of cloud. Autopilot is set and the all too common porpoising occurs. Once passing MAY VOR, we set the GPS to take us to DVR (Dover), the next VOR on our route. By this time we're cleared upto FL50. breaking the top of the cloud, we're treated to a beautiful sun rise above the cloud. Skimming on top of the cloud at 150kts, I'm reminded of why I have such a passion for aviation. Once past DVR, we set the GPS to take us to a VOR in southern Holland (I'm afraid I can't remember the name though). The clouds break once over the sea, and we're finally handed over to Amsterdam. Cruising along happily, we get a call from Amsterdam. "November 80 Hotel Charlie, Ostend approach would like to speak with you. Please change to ???.??." So, we do. Only to be treated to a stern warning from a Belgian controller, advising us we're 7 miles within his airspace. Alas, we're added to a list of statistics of airspace infringements.
Soon the Dutch coast is in view, along with the uniform wind turbines and countryside completely different to that found back in the UK. Heading past the VOR, and heading to Rotterdam, we're instructed to descend to 1500ft or below. I was given control, and I took the yoke with a smile on my face. Pitching the nose down to get a descent of between -500 and -1000ft per minute the props begin to get louder. Some large clouds head our way only for us to be flying straight through them. As we descend at 175kts, we get bumped around and are treated to the sight of clouds parting their way around the windscreen before us. We're treated to glimpses of Rotterdam and Amsterdam on the horizon between each cloud.
Once again, cruising along at 1500ft or below, we look at the sights of the Dutch countryside. I was amazed a the amount of wind turbines around, and how they could pose a hazard to aviation.
Soon Lelystad appeared on the horizon, and as I lined up with the runway centerline Brian called LEY tower. Control was given back to him as I watched rwy 5 (If i remember correctly?) get closer and closer. Soon the undercarriage was lowered and the drag from it was obvious. Flap was lowered and still the runway got closer. Passing over a race track of some sort, then the threshold, power pulled back, almost silence, then thud... silence, then another thud! We were down! Rolling along I looked at the architecture of LEY terminal and let my eyes take in the traffic at this GA airfield.
Exiting on the second to last taxiway, we were instructed to Trabazon aviation, close to the museum. Where we were greeted by the owner, moving slowly towards the hangar, being marshalled. Brakes on, and engines off. Thus the end of our hour and 20 minute flight.
I opened the door and stepped out into the fresh morning air. Set my fake Breitling an hour forward and hopped onto the ground. Where we introduced ourselves to the owner of Trabazon aviation and the possible new buyer, who looked intently around our ride to Holland. And so our day begun.
Part 2 will soon follow, with a few pics of the flight, the aircraft, the arrival, etc.
I hope you enjoyed the report!